Monday, May 28, 2012

Job Growth Rate Ties For Lowest

Late Friday the Department of Workforce Services released the new edition of its monthly Labor Market Review newsletter. A late Friday release is a standard PR ploy with the objective of being ignored.

Being ignored was pretty much fine for the newsletter content, except for one item. New Mexico tied with three other state for the lowest rate of job growth between April 2011 and April 2012. The others in the lowest growth group were Alaska, Connecticut and Missouri.

Seven sates lost jobs over the year.

Monday, May 21, 2012

"Visiting," Considered, And Political Donations

The late Gov. Bruce King taught me about visiting. I interviewed him at his home in Stanley. This was in late 1978, just before his second term started. Actually, I didn’t lead the interview. I took a freelancer along because I felt unable to take King seriously, what with his “mighty fine” persona and all.

We visited. In the kitchen of the King home. Around the table. Drinking coffee. For three hours. The group included Gov. King; Alice, his wife and true partner; brothers Sam and Don; and sons Gary, now attorney general, and Bill.

Well before the conversation ended, I was in awe of King. He and his family provided a complete communication. We had visited. Visiting is about communication and relationships.

Visiting is what I think Republican State Senate candidate Pat Woods does when he talks to people. I haven’t met Woods. In this week’s newspaper column, I offered a brief theoretical consideration based on the broad and rural concept of visiting for Woods’ donations to Democrats over the years, donations that have drawn the always nasty rhetorical wrath of Susana Martinez political henchman Jay McCleskey. The column length of around 600 words limited the analysis.

This is theory. But I have enough experience in rural areas to believe the theory is in the vicinity. First, let’s attest to Woods’ conservativeness. He has regularly donated to Congressman Steve Pearce, who is a good working definition of being really, really conservative.

One of the Democratic candidates getting a Woods donation was Craig Cosner of Tucumcari. I haven’t met Cosner.

My Google search surfaced these items about Cosner that add to conservative. He is from Tucumcari. He is a retired banker. Given Tucumcari’s location, much of Cosner’s banking work will have involved agriculture. Woods is a farmer and rancher from the Clovis area. He will have known Cosner. They will have visited, had some coffee somewhere, more than once. Even if Woods and Cosner aren’t friends, they will have been in the same circles for a long time. That sort of relationship means that if one party to the relationship runs for office, the other gives some money.

Woods isn’t perfect. In 2002, he made a small donation to Patsy Madrid, a super liberal. Such a donation is inexplicable to me.

But then some time back I sat in on the donations committee of a construction industry professional group. The committee approved a small donation to a state senator of my acquaintance, one who I felt was the enemy of all thing capitalist.

Communication was the reason for the donation—keeping the lines open. Communication is the reason for a good many political donations. Organizations, business organizations in particular, want to maintain relationships, the keep the legislative boat stable. Winning is not the issue much of the time.

The Jay McCleskey’s live in a different world. Winning is the only thing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

State Gains Jobs In April—Barely

The New Mexico economy split the job difference in April with tiny wage job growth statewide of 0.1% and employment (different from wage jobs) increases in three metro areas and losses in one. The state now has added wage jobs for nine months, the Department of Workforce Services said in the FRiday, May 18, news release. DWS didn’t call attention to the just-barely status of the April growth.

Statewide, the leading April 2011 to April 2012 the wage job increases came in education health services (+5,000), mining (+2,100) and leisure and hospitality (+1,400). The leading sector losers were professional and business services (-3,400), government (-2,000) and construction (-1,300).

State government education lost 1,100 wage jobs, year over year, but overall, gained 100, meaning that the rest of state government added 1,200 jobs. Government—federal, state and local—remains New Mexico’s largest employment sector with just under 25% of the 808,600 wage jobs in April 2012.

Retail trade, the remaining large sector with 90,100 jobs, gained 600 jobs over April 2011. Manufacturing, especially important because most of its jobs produce goods exported from the state, added 300 wage jobs over the year for a total of 29,400.

Metro Albuquerque employment grew 3,937 to 371,108 (1.1%), year-over-year. Santa Fe employment added 1,827 jobs, a decent 2.7% increase to 71,539. Las Cruces employment grew slightly with 810 more jobs, a 1% addition to 85,996.

Employment in Farmington dropped 118.

New Mexico joined nine states with statistically significant declines in the unemployment rate from March to April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday. (See The state unemployment dropped 0.3 percentage points, from 7.2% in March to 6.9% in April. The unemployment rate was 7.5% in April 2012. Nothing else about the state’s April job performance was considered significant, statistically, by the BLS.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

PNM Annual Meeting Run With Total Control. Demonstrators Appear Outside.

At the annual meeting of shareholders of PNM Resources, Inc., the protesters got the headline and nearly all the story. That missed the point. But then protesters, ever theatrical, commonly get the headline while the real business goes unreported.
In previous years PNM’s annual meeting has been used as an occasion to show off the company to Albuquerque, a celebration directed especially at the individuals owning a few shares and living here. Not so at Tuesday’s meeting.

PNM’s meeting took its cues from annual meetings as an art form executed with the objective of total control. PNM’s chairman, Pat Collawn, executed the control objective perfectly. The meeting was over in 23 minutes. No one asked questions.

Perhaps 75 people attended. That included board members, staff, employees and a few regular shareholders.

After the meeting I complimented Collawn on the control of the meeting. She didn’t smile.

I was a few minutes late for the 9:00 A.M. start. Collawn was already doing her CEO address, listed as item seven on the agenda. That means she had zipped through items one through six in the near blink of an eye. Those items included electing directors and appointing the accountants.

The meeting was held in downtown Albuquerque in Alvarado Square, PNM’s soon to be abandoned signature building former headquarters that has a huge solar array on one side that hasn’t worked in decades. The entry was dark. But, yes, a security man told me, through the dark entry was the way to the meeting. The security man was one of a group of private security and city police tending the estimated 50 protesters on the sidewalk in front of Alvarado Square.

The Alvarado Square atmosphere was a long way from the relaxed and easy going situation at PNM shareholder meetings held at the South Broadway Cultural Center.

Inside, a woman stood at a high desk in the back of the lobby. She verified my name as a shareholder, checked my ID, and summoned security staff to escort me to the meeting which involved riding up one flight in the elevator. The adjacent escalator wasn’t working. Outside the elevator, the security man pointed me to another check-in table where I received the agenda and a ten-item rules and procedures sheet.

I have attended shareholders meeting for four companies, dating to Ranchers Exploration and Development Corporation as a young teenager. (Sen. Clinton Anderson spoke.) Receiving such a sheet was new, at least one with the amount of detail.

The rules included these items:
“We require attendees to honor the following rules of conduct.”
“We ask you to confine questions or comments strictly to the matter that is under consideration.”
“However the business purpose of the meeting will be strictly observed” with a list of items that might be ruled out of order.

Collawn’s CEO speech was unremarkable, which I suspect was the point from my experience in having written such speeches for CEOs of Sunwest Financial Services and its predecessor, First New Mexico Bancshares. During 2011, PNM invested $251 million, $4 million more than operations produced. In 2010, the gap was $35 million.

Collawn spoke at some length of the favorable regulatory situation in Texas where investments can be recovered faster than New Mexico. (Susana Martinez take note.) Other good news was the 40% increase in the share price during 2011 and a dividend increase.

The 2013 renewable energy plan got a summary, happily minus the channeling of Al Gore laid on at previous annual meetings by Jeff Sterba, who Collawn succeeded at the PNM helm.

For the San Juan generating station, PNM has spent more than $300 million during past few years. PNM seeks a “balanced approach” to further emissions reduction. Collawn slide past the fact the demonstrators and the EPA do not want balance, but that’s what CEOs do in shareholder meetings.

Collawn treated me to another annual meeting new experience. This was the first such meeting I have attended where the CEO has worn braces.

During and after the meeting, a woman hung out in the Alvarado Square lobby, shagging passers by such as the accountants and asking questions. She told me she was not admitted to the meeting even though she had what she and her supporters thought was a legal proxy.

Audio of the meeting is available at

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Correcting" Economic Inequality & Tyranny

A 23-year-old student and avowed Communist, Camila Vallejo, has the government of free and prosperous Chile “on the run,” observes Mary Anastasia O’Grady in “Americas” column in the April 30 Wall Street Journal.

O’Grady writes, “How this (defensive posture) can be in Chile, the poster-child of liberal economic reform, is at first a puzzle. The answer—and this is a cautionary tale for Americans—may lie in Chile’s intellectual and political climate, which is desperately short of voices able to defend the morality of the market and the sanctity of individual rights.

“Even while the material benefits of the market economy have been piling up for decades, Chile has been intellectually swamped by leftist ideas. The common principle: Economic inequality is immoral and the state has an obligation to correct it.

“Rather than push back against this invitation to tyranny, the right too often cedes the moral high ground to its opponents.”

O’Grady make an error of sloppy writing, unusual for her, and slides across a fundamental point.

The writing matter is when she says, “the right too often cedes…” Saying “too often” implies the existence of an appropriately often time to cede the moral high ground. Hmmm… I doubt it.

The notion that the state has an obligation, somehow, to create economic equality (that is, “correct” economic inequality) comes with the problem that the state makes the decision about the correcting, and that, folks, is tyranny. Nor can the state delegate the decision, because, ultimately the state would be making the decision, a situation sounding like Obamacare expert boards and New Mexico’s public education hierarchy in which the state controls the money and therefore has control, board of education charades notwithstanding.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Albuquerque Home Prices Increase, Breaking Trend

During April, median and average prices for metro Albuquerque single family detached homes increased on a year-over-year basis for the first time since February 2011.

The April average price, $211,186, was the highest since February 2011 and was a 7.6% increase from April 2011. The April median, $174,775, was highest since July 2011 and up 5.9% from April 2011. The April 2012 average price was up 11% from March 2012 with the median up 9.9% from March.

With the April closed sales of 604 detached homes up just slightly from March—eight units and 1.3%—the price increases were driven by more expensive homes selling during April. Five homes valued at $1 million or more sold during the month as compared to one during March. The four price groups from $200,000 to $499,000 registered increased sales from March.

Both median and average prices scored the first April year over year increase since 2007. Closed sales were up 6.5% from April 2011.

At 1,034 for April, pending sales were up a slight 13 units from March. April pending sales increased 14.5% from April 2011, boding well for continued increases in closed sales during May.

These numbers come from the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors and were posted at within the past few days.

Monday, May 7, 2012

NMSU "Gains" Football Stepchild Role

New Mexico State University has come to exemplify the futility of smaller schools in much more relevant, small televisions markets of competing in today’s college football world. That’s not fair to NMSU, which probably is beside the point.

The weekend (May 5-6) edition of the Wall Street Journal said, “New Mexico State University’s athletic department needed a 70% subsidy in 2009-2010, largely because Aggie football hasn’t gotten to a bowl game in 51 years. Outside of Las Cruces, where New Mexico State is located, how many people even know that the school has a football program? None, except maybe for some savvy contestants on ‘Jeopardy.’ What purpose does it serve on a university campus? None.”

This writer, Buzz Bissinger, is the author of “Friday Night Lights, so he knows more than a little about the broader ethos of football.

At, Stewart Mandel said, “And so, two-and-a-half years after the Big Ten first got the train rolling, the last schools left in the station appear to be Idaho and New Mexico State, the lone remaining WAC members. With their conference destroyed and no invitations pending from another league, the two may have no choice but to drop down to the FCS.”

Mandel’s article summarized the college football conference realignment frenzy of the past few years.

Last week (May 2) the Albuquerque Journal’s Randy Harrison observed, “NMSU is in Las Cruces, which is part of the 91st largest TV market in the nation, according to Nielsen. It bears mentioning that the market is El Paso. That’s home to UTEP, and UTEP gets the attention. It’s not good to be a small market program in the first place — much less sharing it with a university that’s in another conference.”

Harrison, like the world of northern New Mexico, forgot about the 1.5 million (or so) in Ciudad Juarez who watch American TV and buy American stuff. Harrison isn’t alone in overlooking Juarez. It’s just one of those annoying and continuing New Mexico realities.

My suggestion remains the same. Form a lower level football conference (Rio Grande Conference? Rocky Mountain Conference and include Idaho?) and fit football, which is a legitimate use of a Saturday afternoon for students, into an appropriate context, which the massive subsidies.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

2011 Park Visits Lowest Since 1980

A quick look at the national park visitation site ( shows that 2011 visits to New Mexico's two biggest park service attractions were the lowest since 1980.
CArlsbad Caverns National Park drew about 365,000 people last year. Not only was the 2011 visit tally the lowest since 1980, it was the only year that visits were below 400,000. Visits to Carlsbad peaked at 792,000 in 1989.
Whites Sands National Monument attracted 429,000 visitors last year. The record was 667,000 in 1986. For most years during the 1990s, White Sands had just under 600,000 visitors.